As fun as it is, the whole PS5 vs Xbox Series X discussion is a little silly. Both consoles share cross-platform gaming and have similar strengths, but they also have slightly different approaches: the PS5 favors more exclusive games, while the Xbox Series X is the ultimate Xbox experience.
As such, I’m a champion at having both; I really appreciate that in a time when the cost of living is so spiraling upwards, $1,000 on a gaming suite can be hard to swallow, but the Xbox Series S offers a capable, affordable alternative to its bigger brother.
So the whole “console war” is moot in my eyes…or so I thought.
Sony’s push to stop Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard from passing through, and Xbox chief Phil Spencer saying Xbox couldn’t compete with PlayStation muddied the waters a bit.
I realize now that Microsoft has primarily positioned Xbox as a gaming service provider, like Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Cloud Gaming, rather than as a driver of console and game sales. However, for Xbox to remain relevant and successful in the gaming world, it still needs to offer something special that stands out compared to PlayStation, which not only had a strong start from one to one and a half generations of the console, but also had a very dedicated following.
Xbox Game Pass, which we dubbed the best deal in gaming, along with excellent Xbox online services, seems to be the feather in the Xbox cap. An affordable monthly subscription that gets you access to over 100 Xbox games, including new releases, plus PC and cloud games if you pay a little more, was and still is a great deal.
Add in the promise of more exclusive games, thanks to Microsoft devouring developer giant and publisher Bethesda, and Xbox Game Pass is starting to look indispensable as a must-have.
However, after Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 debuted on Game Pass in 2021, I’d say there haven’t been any hard-hitting semi-exclusive games on the service in about 18 months. Sure Pentiment at the end of last year was rather special, and the sudden drop of Hi-Fi Rush at the beginning of this year made Team Xbox kudos. But none of these matches were a major trio title.
However, 2023 was the year of Redfall and Starfield, two highly anticipated Xbox/PC exclusives from two major studios with impressive track records. Xbox also has a lot more in the hopper, but I’d say these two titles are seen as the biggest of 2023.
Then Redfall released on May 2nd… and oh dear.
Despite developer Arkane’s stellar reputation for making great games, most recently with Deathloop, Redfall launched with a lot of bugs and no longer put 60fps. But worse than that, the core game beats at the heart of Redfall feel lackluster and far from the engagement of Dishonored 2.
Unfortunately, Tom’s Guide didn’t get a review code before Redfall was released, but our colleagues at computer games And GamesRadar (Opens in a new tab) Note that Redfall did not live up to expectations and does not feel like the definitive article for an ambitious game.
As a fan of the Arkane games, this is a huge letdown for me. I’m quietly hoping that Redfall will be improved over time, but such a messy launch is bad looks for Xbox, especially since Redfall is already overdue.
In fact, the Redfall bug was so heavy that Xbox chief Phil Spencer took the blame himself, saying Kinda funny (Opens in a new tab) He added that “there is nothing harder for me than the disappointment of the Xbox community. I’ve been a part of it for a long time, and I’m obviously working on Xbox.” [as] Company boss, I have a lot of friends [and] Get a lot of feedback. And just to watch society lose faith, I get disappointed — I get disappointed. I’m upset with myself.”
As a result of Redfall’s disappointment, many people are (rightfully) concerned about the quality of Starfield, which has been delayed until September 6th. There is a feeling that even after delaying a game, Xbox can’t produce a high quality product.
Starfield has to reach for the stars
Now Bethesda Game Studios is different from Arkane, and they’re making a game that shares a lot in common with previous big hitters like Skyrim; Comparatively speaking, Redfall was a little different from Arkane. So we cannot make an apples to apples comparison.
However, Arkane and Bethesda Game Studios are both part of publisher Bethesda Softworks, which operates somewhat separately from Xbox Game Studios. So the overall workflows that would have affected the state of Redfall could be disrupted on the Starfield.
But beyond speculation about the inner workings of Xbox and Bethesda, what’s clear is that Starfield really needs to be a great, well-made game. If not, the rest of 2023 could be bleak for Xbox and that could see a real cooling in positivity towards the Series X and S, as well as Xbox as a gaming brand.
Obviously, not everyone will like Starfield; The open world design and RPG elements can’t appeal to everyone after all.
However, for people to trust Xbox, whether that comes with Game Pass subscriptions or continued adoption of the Series X and S, the brand needs a big hitter this year. Realistically, Starfield appears to be the only game that will carry that torch, so it’s important that Xbox and Bethesda get it right.
But Bethesda’s previous open-world games have a reputation for being buggy, despite receiving critical acclaim. This was the case when the game studio was independent from Microsoft. With Redmond’s technology and resources, one could be forgiven for currently expecting Starfield to be more polished than similar Bethesda games of the past. So this would be another Starfield encounter prediction; The pressure builds up.
The life of the “balance war”, it’s quite different
It’s worth noting that Spencer doesn’t see Xbox competing with PlayStation or Nintendo for console market share. “We’re not in the business of outwardly consoling Sony or consoling Nintendo,” he said, noting that even high-quality games wouldn’t see an Xbox boost before PS5. “There is no world where Starfield is 11/10 and people start selling their PS5s. This is not going to happen.”
Instead, Xbox is about being a gaming platform that delivers great gaming experiences across multiple formats, from consoles and PCs to phones and tablets. “We have to start and do our own thing, with Game Pass, with the things we do with xCloud and the way we build our games,” Spencer explained.
That’s a nice goal, but it still means that Xbox as a platform and service needs a few compelling exclusives released in a polished state. Something needs to encourage people to buy into Xbox as a brand and ecosystem, rather than just investing more in their PS5 game library.
And with Redfall looking like a swing and fail, faith in the Xbox could be waning if Starfield isn’t a critical hit. Of course, I doubt this will spell the death of the Xbox, since Game Pass alone still has a plethora of great games to play. It’s just that without high-profile and successful new games, the X / S series could fizzle out this year, and the Xbox brand might dwindle a bit. If that happens, Xbox may not count as a competing standard bearer for PlayStation to be motivated and measured.
A microcosm of this can be seen in the form of the Halo franchise. Far from dead, Halo is no longer a name for people to put their faith in in games. Bungie’s move to 343i as the developers arguably led to a low point in the Halo series, especially with Halo 5: Guardians. Halo Infinite regained some traction, but its multiplayer audience waned rapidly in 2022 and cuts were made at 343i leaving the future of Halo as a massive Xbox game.
If Starfield doesn’t hit a high water mark in gaming, it could mark a downward trend for Xbox as a pair of existing consoles and a general platform.
Even the most ardent PlayStation fans can rejoice in this. But such a decline would be bad for gaming in general, as competition — real or perceived — encourages innovation and can help prevent the creep of cookie-cutter games and repetitive sequels from flooding the market.
In short, I think a lot hangs on Starfield’s success. And as a fan of Bethesda’s open-world games, you’d better believe I have my fingers and toes crossed for Starfield.